Secret of Kells (2009)

Movie Review


Director:  Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey
Writers: Tomm Moore, Fabrice Ziolkowski
Release: 2009


Brendan longs to explore the world outside the fortified outpost of Kells, but his uncle the abbot fears attacks from the invading barbarians.  Then a master illuminator arrives carrying his life’s work, a book so beautiful some believe it a miracle.  Can Brendan find the courage to save the book or will darkness destroy light?


The Secret of Kells is a beautiful and breath-taking work, one that is just as powerful emotionally as it is stunning visually.  The artwork, however, never obscures the story, but works with it seamlessly to present a moving tale about the possibilities of the imagination and the need to face our personal darknesses with our own light.

Brendan’s story at first seems familiar.  A child longs for adventure, but his fear and his domineering family keep him locked away from the world.  Bright and inquisitive, he possesses the tools he needs to survive, but circumstances combine to thwart his escape attempts, as does his own self-doubt, product of his family’s scorn.

The Secret of Kells, however, is more than a typical tale of self-discovery.  It is about artistic vision, about daring, about religion, about inner strength.  It mixes pagan elements with Christian ones.  It refuses to set the controlling abbot in direct opposition to the more adventurous master illuminator, instead suggesting that both may be right–but both can be wrong.  It encourages viewers to question and explore their world, but most of all to revel in its goodness and beauty.

And the film reflects that beauty.  The monks in the story speak of an illuminated book so beautiful it seems to shine with its own light.  The artwork of The Secret of Kells shines with its own gemlike brilliance.  It is reminiscent of the illuminations that it treats, but gives the medieval art forms life, inviting readers to fall both into the film and into the mystery and magic of the original Book of Kells.

The Secret of Kells is the kind of story that stays with you.  Even if the plot details fade from memory, its beauty and its wonder will remain impressed on the heart.

Krysta 64

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